I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at Easter 2000, at the age of 13 (timing was not my best). I remember being sick for 6-8 weeks after having bronchitis before I was finally diagnosed by my GP and sent straight to hospital.
I was a growing teenage boy, nearly 6 foot and around 50kg when I was hospitalised. I remember waking up the next morning feeling better than I had in months. Over my 5 day stay in hospital I put on about 12kg and it was quite literally like the life had been pumped back in me through the IV drip. The relief that came with receiving a diagnosis, finally starting to feel better and the support from the staff (particularly my Diabetes Educator, Di Roberts) will never be forgotten.
I’ve always been active, playing various sports at representative level and this has always been key in my diabetes management. Once I finished playing competitive AFL and Cricket, I shifted my focus to running. Training for a half marathon was a big diabetes learning curve, but I’ve never used diabetes as an excuse for anything and was determined to make it work.
I’m proud to say that the determination paid off, ultimately leading to me completing a number of half marathons and being selected to pace a half marathon event in Canada. The change I experience in diabetes management when my exercise and routine is consistent is what gets me moving on those days where I might need some extra motivation.
It’s not until I was older that I really appreciated what my parents and sister went through when I was diagnosed. Entries from my sister’s diary wishing she could trade places, mum telling me she would sneak down to check I was okay when I went to kick a footy and dad just generally keeping the family together are all stories of what went on when I was oblivious to the outside world. It’s these stories and the experience that newly diagnosed people and their family go through that make me want to be an ambassador, voice, mentor and ear to listen and help people navigate through their journey.
Whilst nobody wishes to have diabetes, it has ultimately shaped who I am today and what I do. I truly believe I’m better for having had it. I’m a clinical exercise physiologist, healthcare advocate, educator and a normal, happy, healthy guy. Learning to accept that diabetes management will have its highs and lows (pun intended) and that this is not a reflection of who you are is key. It’s about consistently making small efforts to manage your health as best as you can.
I believe the more conversations we can have around type 1 diabetes, whether in the public eye or in a private setting, the better off we will be. I still think there is a lot of misunderstanding of what it takes to manage type 1 diabetes on a daily basis, and we can play a big role in educating the greater community. Please reach out if you’d like to chat about what you’re going through or if I can use my background as an Exercise Physiologist to help you with some exercise related questions.